Straight Talk On The MKT Hits LCT Summit

Posted on September 16, 2011

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DaBryan's prototype Lincoln MKT stretch limousine has been outfitted with a new interior that provides more realistic interior dimensions.
DaBryan's prototype Lincoln MKT stretch limousine has been outfitted  with a new interior that provides more realistic interior dimensions.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — The surprise guests at the 10th annual LCT Leadership Summit this week got plenty of attention by simply standing out front of the Ritz-Carlton South Beach Hotel dressed in black outfits.

The 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car and a 120-inch Lincoln MKT Town Car stretch limousine were invited for another look among operators trying to decide what livery vehicles to buy next following the exit of the Lincoln Town Car Executive L sedan.

The sleek MKT stretch prototype, built by DaBryan Coach Builders, was fitted out with a new interior since it debuted Feb. 14 at the 2011 International LCT Show in Las Vegas. With a new inside bar narrowed by two inches, the prototype now bears more accurate interior dimensions, which also include two extra inches of headroom compared to the Lincoln Town Car. The MKT stretch now comfortably accommodates tall people in the eight seats of the limousine compartment and eases passenger movement along the bench seats. No more “stretch limo crawl.”

The 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car was on display Tuesday, Sept. 13 at the LCT Leadership Summit in Miami Beach, Fla.
The 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car was on display Tuesday, Sept. 13 at the LCT Leadership Summit in Miami Beach, Fla.

Dressing up to go
If the MKT stretch could be compared to an elegant evening gown, the Lincoln MKT Town Car would qualify as a business suit. It was the same prototype that debuted at the Show, and operators mingling in front of the Ritz-Carlton still were trying to figure out if the crossover suit fits right with a hatchback cargo look.

Both vehicles were brought to the Summit courtesy of Ford Fleet Limousine & Livery Vehicles and Acton Fleet Sales, two of the sponsors of the event. Ford starts production of the MKT Town Car on Feb. 28, 2012. The first finished vehicles are expected to arrive at dealerships by late March or early April. Operators can start ordering the first MKTs in October. Official information on pricing and drivetrain details are still pending.

Blunt speak
While operators circling and sampling the vehicles Tuesday voiced varying opinions about them, it was during a pricing and financial presentation Wednesday by Kenneth Schapiro, president of of Condor Capital Investment Management of Martinsville, N.J., that operators heard some of the most strident public comments to date about the MKT crossover successor to the Town Car sedan.

Schapiro, also part owner of AAA Worldwide Transportation in New Jersey, essentially told operators to eat it and like it because the MKT will be a solid, affordable luxury vehicle investment for the industry. Since Ford announced the MKT in September 2010, many operators have been skittish about the MKT’s crossover styling and smaller chassis platform compared to the Executive L.

Schapiro suggested that if operators collectively embrace the MKT as the new industry standard, it will boost its resale value as the vehicles eventually get traded down the used car food chain.

“Is the MKT ideal? No, but it will be priced right,” Schapiro told the audience of operators. “You all are the only ones who will have it because no one else has it. If everyone buys it, you will preserve the backend. If everyone buys different cars, no one preserves the backend because you just have consumer cars.
“I don’t think it’s ideal, but it’s something they are going to make [just] for you,” Schapiro said. “We’ve run the Ford Flex. It looks like a hearse, but the back seat is roomy, the seats recline, you can see out front, and there is a more European feel. I’m going to buy [the MKT]. I hope you do. You will screw up your business financially and image-wise if you don’t.

“It’s a good looking car on the inside,” said Schapiro of the MKT, which Ford carefully engineered based on input from operators and clients. He credited Ford’s CEO Alan Mullally with turning around the company into America’s leading quality automaker.

Inside scuttlebutt

  • One veteran New York operator noted later that the criticism of the MKT among some operators resembles the industry convulsions in 1997 when Lincoln transitioned from the boxy Town Car model to the more rounded body-style that lasted from 1998 to 2011. The operator, who plans to buy MKTs next year to replace some of his Town Cars, predicts the industry will need the MKT as a common standard so clients ride in a consistent vehicle while traveling to multiple locations.
  • Other operators, however, worried about the retractable rear luggage compartment cover: Would it allow enough room for multiple large pieces of luggage? Or, if it didn’t, would operators risk having uncovered luggage slide into the rear seat and hit passengers while the vehicle is in motion?
  • Some operators simply wondered about the look: Does it resemble a station wagon? Will clients view it as distinct and luxurious as a Town Car Executive L?
  • Some just restated some an obvious question: Can Lincoln also stretch the MKS sedan by a few inches, since the MKS gets heavy praise for its style and shape?

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